MERC’s Closure: A Large Piece to the Puzzle

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MERC’s Closure: A Large Piece to the Puzzle

It is clear to all that the Biddeford/Saco region is experiencing ‘resurgam’. Resurgam is a Latin term meaning ‘I shall rise again’. We already see the puzzle of economic resurgence in place. The regional and national economy is improving, our city council and mayor are progressively thinking, the mill is quickly redeveloping, a parking garage is on the horizon, and now we have the imminent closure of MERC.

The MERC closure is a critical piece to the resurgam puzzle. As developers, we have been plagued by MERC’s existence on two fronts. The first is that we have experienced lost opportunities for several large commercial office tenants. One was a high profile national company seeking 30,000 square feet of office space. The complaint was that the owner could not, in good conscience, place his employees in the possible harm’s way of MERC emissions. The second front is about the reputation of Biddeford, which was continually hurt by MERC’s presence. This issue was brought up by Portland real estate brokers. It was also cited in a recent real estate appraisal of the mill. Additionally, when we conducted a market study for a proposed future apartment project, a consultant voiced concern over MERC’s influence on apartment ‘rentability’.

MERC’s closure has created a feeling of liberation. No more tractor trailers full of trash barreling down Route 1, no more smell of trash in the heat of summer, no more emissions bleeding out of the stack, and no more denial that MERC has been keeping our city down.

While we understand that the job losses will be hard on many local families, our hope is that the short term pain incurred by these families will lead to a long term gain for the citizens of Biddeford. We believe that the number of jobs lost by MERC’s closure will be more than replaced through mill redevelopment and development of the downtown. The loss of tax revenue for the city will be replaced and even increased through the redevelopment of the entire mill district.

We should all be proud of the courage that it took to make this bold move. We should all grow the pride that this tough mill city had, has, and will continue to grow.

“Tiger Pride”, “Resurgam”, and “A Proud City Rising Where the Water Falls” all have much more meaning in this new chapter of Biddeford’s history. It’s a chapter that combines the opportunity of the future with the closure of the past.

As usual, all comments are welcome.

Scott Joslin